Friday, June 8, 2012

New Bestesllers for summertime reading

Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation by Elaine Pagels
Read by Lorna Raver

Kirkus Reviews –

Multidimensional reading of "the strangest book in the Bible--and the most controversial." The Book of Revelation, a dark and enigmatic account of an apocalyptic end-times vision populated by warring demons and many-headed beasts, has given rise to more competing interpretations than most of the rest of the Bible combined. Even its authorship is disputed, with specialists unsure of whether the John referenced in the text is the Apostle John or a separate individual. Pagels (Religion/Princeton Univ., Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity, 2007, etc.) explores Revelation's outsized role in the development of Christian thought and places it in the context of its creation. Arguing that its language depicting battles in heaven and destruction on earth is a thinly veiled political screed against the pagan Roman Empire, Pagels identifies John as a Jewish refugee from Jerusalem following the destruction of the Temple. Viewing the Book through the prism of the Gnostic Gospels and the other accounts of prophetic visions that proliferated at the time, she advances the modern theory that Revelation is a Jewish Christian document fighting back against Paul's mission to abrogate Jewish law and bring Christ's message to the Gentiles. Pagels' compelling, carefully researched analysis brings to life the multitude of factions that quickly arose in the nascent Christian community after the death of Jesus. The struggle to canonize Revelation was intensely controversial; to this day, believers fight over how to interpret the vision of John of Patmos, "reading their own social, political, and religious conflict into the cosmic war he so powerfully evokes." Scholarly but widely accessible, the book provides a solid introduction to the one book of the New Testament that claims to be divinely inspired.



The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt

Publishers Weekly –

Amid America's tense culture wars, Haidt (The Happiness Hypothesis), a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, has produced this thought-provoking investigation into the innate morality of the human mind. Dismissing the notion that the human mind is fundamentally rational, Haidt briskly guides the reader through decades of psychology research in order to demonstrate that emotion and intuition determine our judgments, while reasoning is created only later to justify these judgments (à la Hume). From there, Haidt dispels the classic notion that morality is based upon concepts of harm or fairness and outlines the variety of moral categories before entering a discussion of how our "righteous minds" "Bind and Blind" us in politics, religion, and nationalism. But Haidt is at his best when using his comprehensive knowledge of moral psychology to explain both sides of American politics with an admirable evenhandedness and sympathy. In his two most insightful chapters, Haidt explains why conservatives have a wider moral foundation and thus, an inherent advantage in politics, and later outlines the necessities of both liberal and conservative moral systems, arguing that the two provide necessary counterbalances to one another. Blending lucid explanations of landmark studies in psychology and sociology with light personal anecdotes, Haidt has produced an imminently readable book about the complexities of moral psychology and the human fixation with righteousness.




The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

Kirkus Reviews –

According to this instructional text for readers habituated to unhelpful ways, changing those bad habits for good habits isn't rocket science--it's brain science. New York Times investigative reporter Duhigg demonstrates how automatic behavior, good or bad, can grow from a repeated decision that gets lodged in the basal ganglia. The result is a fixed loop of cue, routine and reward. Animal trainers are already familiar with this information. For improvement, the trick is to keep the cue and reward, but change the routine. The belief that acquiring a new "keystone habit" can really be achieved is necessary, and that's why support groups, like AA, are valuable. To clarify his points, Duhigg offers some simplistic diagrams with many cautionary stories of surgeons, baristas, gamblers, sex addicts and football coaches, as well as the selling of toothpaste, aluminum and room deodorizers. Along with tales of paragons of corporate management, we learn how supermarkets are arranged, how Target stores target consumers, how Marin Luther King Jr. managed the Montgomery bus boycott and how Rick Warren organized his monumental Saddleback Church. Even with such varied exemplars, the skilled narrative remains accessible. Unlike other exhortations with titles that promise empowerment, this admonitory entry is supported by interviews, neurological studies and empirical histories. Copious notes and a "Reader's Guide to Using These Ideas" are appended. For self-help seekers, a more convincing book than most.




Monday Mornings by Sanjay Gupta

Library Journal –

In his first novel, neurosurgeon and CNN medical reporter Gupta follows the professional and personal lives of five doctors at Chelsea General Hospital in Michigan. Ty Wilson, Tina Ridgeway, and Sung Park are neurosurgeons; Sydney Saxena is a cardiothoracic surgeon; and George Villanueva is chief of the emergency department. The book's title refers to conferences held early on Mondays at which hospital physicians must acknowledge and learn from their mistakes. Wilson, who is having an affair with the married Ridgeway, must appear at one of these conferences after his overconfidence results in the death of a young boy. Park and Saxena both drive themselves relentlessly as they vie eventually to replace "the Boss," chief of medical staff Harding Hooten. Former pro-football player Villanueva is trying to reconnect with his estranged teenage son, who lives with Villanueva's ex-wife. VERDICT Anyone who enjoys medical fiction should like this novel, despite a few less-than-realistic plot developments. Gupta keeps his numerous characters and their intermingled lives and crises in play and convinces readers to care about each one.


 
Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting By Pamela Druckerman

Kirkus Reviews –

The author of a cross-cultural study on infidelity turns her judicious eye to the differences between American and Parisian childrearing. When Druckerman (Lust in Translation, 2007) was laid off from her job as an international reporter for the Wall Street Journal, she willingly reunited with British journalist Simon, whom she'd met six months earlier. Their romance relocated her to his "two-room bachelor pad" in Paris where an expected culture clash awaited. An "Atkins-leaning vegetarian," Druckerman found particular discordance with Parisian cuisine and social norms. After getting pregnant, the author became obsessively worrisome and at odds with the structure of French childbirth and childrearing, though she was amazed at how inexplicably well-behaved and good-natured Parisian children seemed. Intent on uncovering the secret to French nurturing, she began some "investigative parenting," and the American expat waded through her daughter Bean's crucial developmental years fortified by what Parisian parents taught their own children. Druckerman's epiphanies include how months-old French babies sleep through the night via the "pause" technique and, soon after, are taught the art of patience. She demystifies the day-care "crèche" and preschool "maternelle," and how French mothers return to top physical shape (and their jobs) following childbirth. The author is a delightfully droll storyteller with an effortless gift of gab that translates well to the page. She backs up assumptions and associated explorations with historical parenting examples and comparisons that temper her skepticisms with an authoritative air. With twins on the way, Druckerman eventually acclimated to the guarded, good-natured bonhomie of Paris and struck a happy medium between French methods and her own parenting preferences. A quirky family saga of an American mother in Paris.

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